Alt – Conservative/Independent candidate, Mike Basman
I belong to roughly the Conservative area of politics, but I certainly do not intend to become “lobby fodder”, just doing what I am told by the party top nobs and whips. While broadly approving of Theresa May, I hope to hold her to account in areas where I feel her government or her party malfunctions (that is assuming that Theresa actually wins the election).
Here are my positions on some important policy matters:
BREXIT: I feel this was an overwhelmingly necessary event, because we had to take back control of our own country, and thus learn by making our own mistakes, and often making good decisions! Frequently, whenever you wanted to change something, in the past civil servants would simply say, “You can’t do that – it’s an EU rule”. Now our lives will not be ruled by an unelected elite in Brussels, and if you believe in democracy, surely that must be a good thing.
EUROPE: I believe in Europe, but all the nations of that continent should have more autonomy. Why should we benefit from democracy, whilst they are denied? The EU has been of enormous benefit to the countries of Eastern Europe, because many of them had just emerged from despotic rule. On the other hand it has been less beneficial to the Western European countries. Perhaps a looser, more flexible federation would be ideal.
IMMIGRATION: Travel broadens the mind, even better if you can make the world to come to you! But there has been too much immigration, and our schools, hospitals, the benefits system, the health service and housing provision simply cannot cope. We need to reduce our intake, and organise our country better to absorb the new people we have.
TRADE: England is a nation of shop-keepers, said Napoleon; if only! Business rates and high street rents are now so high it is hard to maintain a shop. But where we have seen enormous growth is among small traders and the self-employed. Everyone now has their own little van festooned with signs for pilates classes and puppy care. Yet HMRC is trying to stifle this growth with endless taxation rules in an attempt to force us back into old fashioned PAYE employment. And many small businesses cannot grow because of VAT rules and regulations. It’s even hard to employ people – if you do, they get all the rights and you get all the responsibilities. We need to support trade, particularly small traders.
TAXATION: This has become a blight. The country needs tax to run on, but why cannot it be a simple bill, easy to pay like any other, instead of the yearly (and soon quite probably daily) nightmare of incomprehensible rules and time consuming book-keeping? Hence I will be suggesting a simple tax on income, and no intrusive investigation of our expenditure by HMRC. Also, the abolition of the ridiculous VAT system, which involves paying and then reclaiming tax, to be replaced by a transaction tax – but this should only kick in at a threshold income of £500,000, instead of the current £83,000. This will allow small businesses to grow into big businesses. With the new system, we will get our time back to trade, so we can make more profits, which will mean larger tax revenues; and prices will be lower, because we will not need to pass on the compliance costs to consumers. A win, win, win situation for everybody!
THE PAY GAP: The pay gap between the people at the top of private and public companies compared to “ordinary” workers, is now grotesque, and it was this huge difference which was one of the reasons for the Brexit revolt.
It suits the government to demonise “business”, which draws attention away from their own shortcomings, but this does not distinguish between small and large businesses. Most small businessmen do not earn large salaries. In truth, pay packets in local government, the health service, the BBC, universities, etc., at the top end, are just as enormous as those in the private sector, although banking and financial areas can exceed them all. Instead of colluding with and cosying-up to big business and public corporations, I will be looking to find ways to have more harmonious forms of remuneration, which most people in the country could feel comfortable with.
To this end, I am a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s idea that government contracts should only be awarded to those firms that limit the difference between the highest and lowest workers’ pay, to no more than a factor of 20. Also, I will be campaigning for two new Environmental Purification Officers in Surbiton (known as street cleaners and road sweepers), paid for by reducing the salaries of the best paid managers on the local Council.
The NHS: Basic health care is necessary, but the NHS has become an unwieldly mega-beast with nurses and doctors worked to death, enormous management overheads, a culture which pushes drugs relentlessly onto the populace and does not give enough room for individual input on health. There should be smaller units, and an emphasis and development of healthy life-styles.
HOUSING: Partly because of the growth in ASSET values, houses are enormously expensive. Nowadays you might need a sum over 10 times your annual income, or very wealthy parents, to buy a house. As a result, many young people cannot fly the nest, remain at home and do not develop independent living skills; or they have to rent somewhere so expensive that they cannot ever save for a house.
I want to propose the development of the FLEXI-HOME. In the north of England, there are few jobs – but many relatively cheap houses. In the south, there are more jobs, but nowhere to live cheaply.
If we had FLEXI-HOMES, homes on wheels – known also as caravans – all placed on sites with joint washing, cleaning and toilet facilities, a young person could buy a second-hand caravan for £3,000 and pay ground rent of £50 per week. That way he or she could also save enough money to buy a house, perhaps in the north of England or Portugal, where they are cheaper, and live there part of year. Having wheels means that you can go to those parts of the country where there are more jobs. The health of the nation would improve, because you are closer to nature, grass, trees and farm animals in a caravan. And, of course, a caravan would absorb far less environmental resources than a static house. The HALF-WAY ECOFRIENDLY-HOUSE could become a spring-board to a more permanent property, or an entry to a freer life.
EDUCATION: The destruction of the grammar schools was perhaps the biggest own goal by British society in the last century. Generations of middle and lower class pupils found their life-chances nipped in the bud, and the result was that we had to find two of our recent Prime Ministers from the private schools because there wasn’t enough talent being developed. England needs to punch its weight intellectually in the world.
An important book was written in 1958 by the thinker Michael Young called, “The Rise of the Meritocracy”. His prediction was that, if we continued with the Grammar school system, a self-perpetuating elite would result, which would shut 95% of the population out of the ruling parts of society and this would eventually lead to a revolution in 2033. As a result of Michael Young’s book and the climate of opinion at the time, which gave rise to the Plowden Report of 1967, Grammar Schools were essentially eliminated in the 1970s such that only 160 of them remain when before there were over a thousand.
Michael Young’s son, the political commentator, Toby Young, rejected the ideas of his father and set up a FREE SCHOOL. Recently, Toby Young presented a radio program where he discussed the idea that, despite the dismantling of the grammar school system, an unaccountable elite has nonetheless arisen at the top of society, and this he thought had been one of the root causes of the revolutionary Brexit vote. This may indeed be the case but this elite is considerably less intelligent than the one that would have emerged if we had retained the grammar schools in the first place.
In the 1930s, Henry Ford said, “You can have any colour of car you want, as long as it is black”. The educationalists reversed this; “You can have any educational system you like, as long as it’s not academic”. I would like to re-introduce grammar schools, but take steps to ensure that money and expensive tutoring does not give some parents too large an advantage; and also improve other schools, and show that the academic route is not the only way to advancement and success in modern society.
CLIMATE CHANGE: The situation has reached something of an impasse. I am, therefore, proposing a two-day conference, for and against the arguments regarding climate change. The climate change sceptics claim that their opinions are being suppressed, particularly by the BBC. This way they will be able to have their say, but they had better come up with some good arguments! Those who subscribe to the view that climate change is man-made are often quite dogmatic, claiming that the argument is already decided. In that case they should have no difficulty in winning the debate, but the public will be far more enlightened after it has taken place.
THE BIG ISSUE: This weekly magazine is often spot-on in the help it gives to the poorer in society. If I am elected, I will support many of their policies, e.g. on library closure, pre-fabricated houses which have been erected for example, by Reading council, trade not aid, preventative medicine, and veterinary help for the dogs which are the companions of many homeless people.
TRIDENT AND DEFENCE: Trident is the lesser of two evils; I believe that a few nations should have nuclear weapons, but they should attempt to limit their numbers, and ultimately, eliminate them. Some people think that it is “unfair” that the USA and Russia, etc., should have nuclear weapons and other countries like North Korea and Iran have to do without. But I notice that there are plenty of less bellicose nations, like Holland, South Korea, Australia and Uruguay, who are not clamouring for them. As the UK has had a commanding presence on the world stage down the centuries, we should continue that tradition. In fact, I would like the army to develop into something like an international police force that could be deployed throughout the world to protect civilians from their sometimes murderous governments.
THE LEGAL SYSTEM: “To none will we sell, to none deny or delay, right or justice”.
How far away we are from these ringing words of 800 years ago, when our ancestors tried to put down our rights on paper, through the Magna Carta! Law has become punitively expensive to anyone who does not have bucket-loads of money, and the Legal Aid system is little more than sticking plaster. Lawyers and Judges want us to respect the Law, but usually it comes down to respecting them and knowing our place.
Furthermore, the lawyers have concocted a vast language of legalese, whereby they use words with meanings incomprehensible to the general public; in this way they maintain their superiority and inscrutability. As local government and the tax office become ever-more desperate to acquire new revenues, they bypass the procedures built up over centuries which preserved our liberties. Alongside other parts of our government machine, this is also in need of scrutiny and repair.
POWER: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This dictum by Lord Acton, has become so famous that people have forgotten to analyse it, to find out its true meaning. Why does power corrupt? Why is it not used wisely?
To give an analogy: if several students share a flat, the one who has the keys to the fridge has an enormous advantage. Or say, Jose Morinho or Arsene Wenger were allowed, at the end of each football match, to decide the winning team; this would be a massive temptation and would skew their objectivity.
This is the condition of our democracy, where MPs are elected by us, but in reality they are pawns in the hands of unaccountable civil servants or party machines. The Civil Service ruthlessly closes down debate except among its own chosen elite; one example of the effect of this can be found in the huge unchallenged salaries in many public sector jobs, be they in local government, NHS, the Quangos, the BBC or the Universities.
If there was any error in Lord Acton’s phrase, it was perhaps in its lack of emphasis: “Power ALWAYS corrupts”, so it is up to us, the people, to work out how it can be controlled to the advantage of society.
MICHAEL BASMAN: To introduce myself: born in St Pancras, London, I was brought up in Claygate and went to Surbiton County Grammar School, (now Hollyfield). I studied history at Leeds University and spent 3 years as a student in Armenia. I became joint British Chess Champion in 1973, and drew with two World Chess Champions. I created the UK Chess Challenge, the largest chess tournament in the world, which, between 1996 and 2016 introduced around 1,000,000 children to the world’s most famous board game. In 2016 I was bankrupted by HMRC since, although I was happy to pay their tax, I was not prepared to waste considerable amounts of my valuable time in unnecessary record-keeping and accountancy, as well as paying accountancy costs. The demands for unpaid work in tax compliance, rather than the taxation itself, I regarded as a breach of the Human Rights Act, Article 4 which outlaws forced and compulsory labour.
I am a proponent of the INTELLIGENT METHOD of solving problems. The plan is, by improving the thinking and analytical capacities of our people, particularly young people, we will be able to reduce war and poverty significantly over the next 50 years.
A diagram can demonstrate the INTELLIGENT METHOD.
Any problem you have, be it chess or something else, you should run it through your own brain first, to get your own opinion. After that you should consult the expert. In that way you are more likely to understand the expert’s opinion, if you have first done some thinking of your own. And you will be better able to judge whether the “expert” is, in fact, an expert, or rather a superannuated windbag.
This approach runs counter to the ones used by government and our elites, which, intent on retaining power, privilege and position, actively discourage any independent thought by employees in all public bodies. Witness the summary justice meted out to whistle-blowers who dare to flag up weaknesses in their organisations. They are ignored, ridiculed, sometimes they are suspended or lose their jobs, and accused of “disloyalty”. Not surprisingly, the country is much less successful than it could be, because rule by an unchallenged elite leads to stagnation and mediocrity.
Nonetheless, our country has great prospects. The people think of innovative ways to thrive, and our rulers do not employ water-boarding as a routine method of keeping the populace in order. The same cannot be said of many other countries!
The future is bright, and is all colours of the rainbow!
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